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Judge to Set Date in Trump Trial       03/01 06:41

   The federal judge overseeing the classified documents prosecution of Donald 
Trump is expected to set a trial date on Friday, a crucial decision that could 
affect whether the former president and leading Republican candidate faces a 
jury this year on charges that he hoarded top secret records and hid them from 
government investigators.

   FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) -- The federal judge overseeing the classified 
documents prosecution of Donald Trump is expected to set a trial date on 
Friday, a crucial decision that could affect whether the former president and 
leading Republican candidate faces a jury this year on charges that he hoarded 
top secret records and hid them from government investigators.

   The trial, in federal court in Fort Pierce, Fla., is currently set for May 
20. But U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has already postponed multiple dates 
in the case and signaled that she would revisit the trial date during a pivotal 
hearing on Friday.

   Ahead of the hearing, federal prosecutors on Thursday requested a July 8 
trial date. Defense lawyers said there was no way to hold a fair trial this 
year at a time when Trump is looking to clinch the Republican presidential 
nomination but nonetheless proposed Aug. 12 as a possible date to begin jury 
selection.

   The trial date has taken on added significance in light of the uncertainty 
surrounding a separate federal case in Washington charging Trump with scheming 
to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The Supreme Court said this week 
that it would hear arguments in late April on whether Trump as a former 
president is immune from prosecution, leaving it unclear whether that case -- 
also brought by special counsel Jack Smith -- might reach trial before the 
November election.

   If the Florida classified documents case were to be postponed until after 
the election, and if the Washington election subversion case does not take 
place this year, that would mean voters would head to the polls without two 
blockbuster federal prosecutions -- both alleging felony charges -- being 
resolved by a jury.

   The highly anticipated hearing is the first public one in months in the 
case. It comes as prosecutors have sought to lay bare the gravity of the 
allegations against Trump and amid signs of simmering tensions between Smith's 
team and Cannon on the question of whether names of potential witnesses in the 
case could be disclosed by the defense on the public docket.

   Trump faces 40 felony counts in Florida that accuse him of willfully 
retaining after he left the White House dozens of classified documents at his 
Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and then rebuffing government demands to give them 
back.

   Prosecutors in recent court filings have stressed the scope of criminal 
conduct that they say they expect to prove at trial, saying this week in one 
brief that "there has never been a case in American history in which a former 
official has engaged in conduct remotely similar to Trump's."

   They allege, for instance, that Trump intentionally held onto some of the 
nation's most sensitive documents after he left office -- only returning a 
fraction of them upon demand by the National Archives -- and then urged his 
lawyer to hide records and to lie to the FBI by saying he no longer was in 
possession of them. He's also charged with enlisting staff to delete 
surveillance footage that would show boxes of records being moved around the 
property.

   Trump and his lawyers have denied any wrongdoing. They asked Cannon last 
week to dismiss the case, citing among other arguments the same immunity theory 
now being considered by the Supreme Court.

   Among the issues issue expected to be discussed at Friday's hearing is a 
dispute over whether defense lawyers can file publicly on the docket a 
substantially unredacted motion that would identify potential witnesses for the 
government and details of their expected testimony -- information they were 
given by prosecutors under a protective order.

   Cannon initially permitted the defense lawyers to disclose the witness 
names, but after prosecutors urged her to reconsider and said she had committed 
a "clear error," she put the order on hold.

 
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